The migrant caravan bound for the United States has seen a significant increase in Chinese participants, with their numbers skyrocketing to over 7,000 in just 24 hours. The group, which began its journey in Mexico, has been guided by social media platforms that provide detailed instructions on how to navigate the treacherous path towards the American dream.
Organizer Irineo Mujica reported the remarkable surge in participants, surpassing previous estimates by the Chiapas government, which had placed the number at around 3,500. This influx of Chinese migrants is part of a larger trend that has seen a surge in arrivals via the perilous route through Panama's Darién Gap jungle, thanks in part to the easy accessibility of information on social media.
Chinese migrants have become the fourth-highest nationality to cross the Darién Gap in the first nine months of this year, following Venezuelans, Ecuadorians, and Haitians, according to Panamanian immigration authorities. By flying to Ecuador and then making their way north to the U.S.-Mexico border, Chinese individuals have found a viable route through this previously untapped region.
The number of Chinese migrants crossing the Darién Gap has been steadily rising, with a monthly increase from 913 in January to 2,588 in September. At the U.S.-Mexico border, Border Patrol officials have made 22,187 arrests of Chinese individuals attempting to cross the border illegally from Mexico, a drastic increase compared to the same period last year.
The caravan, which is composed of migrants from Central America, Venezuela, Cuba, Haiti, and now China, originated from Tapachula, a city near the Guatemalan border. Frustrated with the lengthy processing times for refugee or exit visa applications at the main immigration center in Tapachula, these individuals took matters into their own hands and embarked on the journey to the United States.
The popularity of this route for Chinese immigrants can be attributed to the fact that they can fly into Ecuador without needing a visa. From there, they join forces with Latin Americans to traverse the once-impenetrable Darién Gap and navigate several Central American countries before reaching the U.S. border. This journey, often referred to as "walk the line" or 'zouxian' in Chinese, has gained popularity thanks to short video platforms and messaging apps that offer real-time videos, step-by-step guides, and even translation apps to aid migrants.
One Chinese migrant interviewed by Reuters revealed that she had come across an internet personality known as "Baozai" on various social media platforms, who had gained a significant following by sharing videos about his migration to the United States. Other accounts on platforms like Twitter have also been providing advice in Mandarin on crossing the U.S.-Mexico border, emphasizing the importance of understanding the location of U.S. Border Patrol agents and knowing how to interact with them.
The increased numbers of Chinese migrants attempting to reach the United States reflect the growing challenges U.S. President Joe Biden faces in curbing illegal immigration. With many migrants fleeing poverty and political instability in their homelands, emigration from China has seen a significant rise since 2018, driven by factors such as the amendment of the constitution and the impact of the pandemic on China's economy. As these migrants embark on their arduous journeys, the rise of social media and the accessibility of information have reshaped migration patterns, presenting new challenges for immigration authorities.